Vayechi-Jacob Alive in Death
Regarding the idiom used by our Sages to signify the passing of a tzaddik, “He has left life for all the living (Berachot 61b).” For “A tzaddik lives by his faith (Habakuk 2:4),” and by “the awe of G‑d [which leads] to life (Proverbs 19:23),” and by the flashing and fiery sparks of his love for G‑d, that is even greater than life, investing in them — in his faith and awe and love — the life of his Ruach and, moreover, of his Neshamah, throughout his life.
And when it comes about that God takes up his Ruach and Neshama, gathering them to Himself, and he ascends from one elevation to another to the peak of levels, he then bequeaths the life of his Ruach, for which he had labored previously in Israel, the life that is the reward of the righteous, to every living being. That is, he leaves it to the souls of every living being bound to his soul by a thick rope of an everlasting, an irremovable, magnanimous (Kavanah: “Ahavah Rabbah”), and eternal (Kavanah: “Ahavat Olam“) love.
For the man who loves life and wishes to be attached to the living God and have his soul cleave to the service of God, his soul will be, “Bound up in the bundle of life with God (I Samuel 25:29),” in the life of, “the breath (Ruach) of our nostrils… of whom we said: ‘In his shadow (Tzel) we shall live among the nations (Lamentations 4:20).”
This he left to us, in each and every one corresponding to the degree of his genuine involvement and pure love of truth from his very innards and from the depths of his heart. For, “As in water, face answers to face (Proverbs 27:19) to see,” so too, spirit, or Ruach, rouses spirit, and brings forth Spirit (Zohar II, 162b; Genuine friendship and love create a relationship in which the spirit of one evokes the spirit of the other).”
Thus, his Ruach, remains truly in our midst, when he sees his children-students, the work of his hands, in his midst, sanctifying His blessed name (Isaiah 29:23). For God’s Name is magnified and sanctified (Kaddish) when we walk in the right way that He has shown us of His ways, and we walk in His path forevermore.
The holy Zohar states that when the righteous person departs he is more present in all the worlds than in his lifetime (Zohar III, 71b). This has to be understood. Granted that he is to be found increasingly in the upper worlds, because he ascends there; but how can he be found more in this world?
The explanation is along the lines of what I heard about the saying of our Sages that, “He has bequeathed life to all the living.”
As is known, the life of a righteous person is not a physical life but a spiritual life, consisting of faith, awe, and love. Of faith, it is written, “And the righteous lives by his faith.” Of awe, it is written, “And the awe of God tends to life (Proverbs 19:23).” And of love, it is written, “He who follows after righteousness and mercy finds life (Proverbs 21:21),” and ‘mercy’ here is synonymous with love.
These attributes are prevalent in every world up to the highest, all proportionate to the levels of the worlds, each higher than the other, by way of cause and effect, as it is known. While the righteous man was alive on earth, these attributes were contained in their vessels and the garment in the physical spatial realm. This is the aspect of the Nefesh bounded to his body. All his disciples receive, by a glimmer of these attributes, a ray that illuminates beyond the vessel by means of his holy utterances and thoughts. That is why our Sages said that a person cannot comprehend his master until forty years have passed (Avodah Zarah 5b).
After his passing, as the Nefesh, which remains in the grave, is separated from the Ruach, which is in the Garden of Eden, who ever is close to him can receive a part of his Ruach, the influence of these attributes, which lived in the Garden of Eden. This is because it is no longer in a vessel or in the physical spatial realm.
In a similar way, we may understand the saying of our Sages with reference to Jacob, that, “The Garden of Eden entered with him (when he came to his father Isaac for the blessings. Bereishit Rabbah 65:22). Likewise, it is stated in the book Asarah Ma’amarot (Rabbi Menachem Azariah of Fano) that the sphere of the Garden of Eden spreads itself around every person, and in it are recorded all his good thoughts and utterances of Torah and worship (Chakor Din, Part II, Chapter 12). Likewise, to the contrary, heaven forbid, impure thoughts and speech are recorded in the sphere of Gehinom, which spreads itself around the person.
Thus it is very easy for his disciples to receive their part of the essential aspects of their master’s faith, his all, and his love, with which he served God, and not merely a glimmer of which radiates beyond the vessel. For the essential aspect of his Ruach is raised, elevation upon elevation, to become absorbed in his Neshamah, which is in the Upper Garden of Eden, and the supreme world.
Something sacred is never wholly and totally uprooted from its place in the regional level, even after it has been elevated ever so high. Its original aspect, remaining below, in the Lower Garden of Eden, in its place and original level, extends itself among his disciples, each according to the level of his involvement with and closeness to the righteous person during his lifetime and after his death, out of a magnanimous love. (Iggeret haKodesh 27)
Application: For the Tenth of Tevet: Besieged by the Garden of Eden
Use the imagery of the Asarah Ma’amarot: “The sphere of the Garden of Eden spreads itself around every person, and in it are recorded all his good thoughts and utterances of Torah and worship. Likewise, to the contrary, heaven forbid, impure thoughts and speech are recorded in the sphere of Gehinom, which spreads itself around the person,” to picture two alternatives in being surrounded, one of Gehinom, and one of the Garden. Use that imagery each time you pray, study, perform a Mitzvah: Surrounding yourself with the Garden.